What is an X-ray?
The term X-ray describes a type of radiation used to see structures inside the body. During an X-ray, the radiation is focused into a beam of light that can actually pass through the tissues of the body.
A detector is placed opposite the X-ray and this creates the image. When an X-ray beam hits dense structures such as bones, most of the light is absorbed, resulting in a white image on the detector. Muscles and other organs will show up in shades of gray, depending on their density.
X-rays are the most common type of diagnostic imaging. Some X-ray tests utilize a special iodine-based dye to create more contrast in the image. This dye may be swallowed, injected, or administered by enema, depending on the part of the body being examined. Your doctor will discuss the procedure with you before your appointment.
How to prepare
- Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing to your exam. You may be given a gown to wear during the procedure.
- Metal objects can affect X-ray images. Jewelry, eyeglasses, dentures, and hairpins may need to be removed before the exam.
- Depending on the type of X-ray, you may be asked to refrain from eating or drinking for several hours before your exam.
- Be sure your doctor is aware of any recent illnesses or other medical conditions; if you have a history of heart disease, asthma, diabetes, kidney disease or thyroid problems; or if there is a possibility that you may be pregnant.
What to expect
Depending on the type of exam, a special dye may be used to make certain internal organs or systems of the body show up more clearly in the pictures. It will be swallowed, injected through an intravenous line (IV), or administered by enema. You may experience a warm sensation in the body when the dye is administered, and possibly a metallic taste in the mouth, which should go away after a few minutes.
You may be sitting, standing, or lying down for your exam, depending the area of the body being examined. The X-ray machine will either move around you or, for some exams, you may lie on an exam table that will move into position under the X-ray machine.
After your X-ray
When the scanning is complete, the technologist will review the images to verify that they are of high enough quality for accurate interpretation. The images will then be reviewed by a doctor, and you will hear back about the results within several days.
Generally, no recovery time is needed after an X-ray, and you will be able to drive yourself home, or even back to work immediately after your appointment.
Risks and side effects
X-rays are the most common type of diagnostic imaging used today. They are considered very safe, with the diagnostic benefits outweighing the possible risks in the majority of cases. They do utilize a small amount of radiation; however care is taken to use the lowest dose of radiation possible while producing high-quality images.
If your X-ray exam calls for use of a contrast dye, there is a very small risk of allergic reaction or inflammation caused by the dye.
Types of X-ray
Listed below are some of the types of X-rays offered at Community Hospital.